***CORRECTION: A previous version of this story included an incorrect amount that the Rockford Ninja Warrior organization is in debt. The RNW organizer says the organization owes $118,000 after a public relations firm defaulted on a signed contract. That firm was supposed to bring in $700,000. 24 Hour News 8 apologizes for this error, which has since been corrected.***
ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — Rockford Ninja Warrior is more than $100,000 dollars in debt, with its leader saying a public relations firm failed to deliver on promises of major sponsorship dollars.
Rockford Ninja Warrior president Brian Pankratz says the event owes a little over $118,000 to multiple organizations. He says he promises to get them paid.
“It’s a very hard lesson to learn and I know that even through this that my biggest desire is to get the people we owe money paid,” he told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday.
Pankratz started Rockford Ninja Warrior four years ago. The community event mimics the hit NBC television show and aims to give kids opportunities like the professionals to test their strength. Pankratz says it teaches life lessons in how to tackle mental health problems.
He said he made a mistake last year in signing a contract with a public relations company to create vendor contracts and bring in donations totaling $700,000. He said the firm never turned over a cent and that left Rockford Ninja Warrior scrambling a month and a half before the August 2017 event.
That left multiple organizations and companies waiting to get paid.
Pankratz says he was able to pay back some of them, but there are still eight companies who haven’t gotten their due, including The Screen Print Dept. Inc., which has filed a lawsuit to collect the $25,000 it says its owed.
An owner of The Screen Print Dept. Inc. told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday that she had just entered in to an agreement that included not speaking to the press for 21 days while Rockford Ninja Warrior responded to the lawsuit.
Pankratz didn’t want to disclose the other seven organizations that are still owed money.
24 Hour News 8 called numbers he provided for the PR company, but didn’t get through to anyone. 24 Hour News 8 also could not find a website for that company.
The Rockford Ninja Warrior website is now asking for donations to fix the financial crisis.
“If people believe in what we’ve done in the past and say, hey, you know what, we believe in what they’ve done, what they’ve brought to the community, we want to help them out, we’d love to get them paid sooner rather than later,” Pankratz said.
He said the event generated between $200,000 and $300,000 last year — all of which went to covering expenses, like renting out the DeltaPlex (at a cost of $45,000 per a week), paying for lodging and airfare for the professional American Ninja Warriors to be at the event, and renting other equipment. Pankratz said the DeltaPlex has been paid in full.
Pankratz said he has never taken a paycheck for running the event.
All he wants now is to settle every debt so he can focus on keeping it running.
The organizer says in 2016, the organization was able to donate $45,000 to two youth organizations.
“The goal is to help bring resources for those kids that don’t feel like they have an opportunity to be helped,” he said.